Four hundred and ninety two days after it was last open the Roadmender welcomed back rock fans with Fontaines DC and support WJ Healey.
There were pandemic controls in place and a reduced cap on audience numbers but as a double-jabbed over 50 all I had to do wash flash my NHS Covid pass at the door and I was in. Negative Covid tests were also being accepted as proof you were low-risk enough to join the party.
It seemed a workable system and once inside the venue was also well ventilated, quite an achievement for Roadmender which would ordinarily be one of my top recommendations for a bacchanalian sweat-pit type night out.
And what an excellent way to mark the reopening, with Dublin punk/indie outfit Fontaines DC resuming their pre-pandemic upward trajectory on the Northampton leg of a UK tour already sold out in many places.
Their first album Dogrel was shortlisted for the Mercury Prize in 2019, A Hero’s Death – a veritable box of bangers – came a year later but by then Coronavirus had slowed down time and the question was do Fontaines DC have the energy and momentum to bring us all back to where we left off?
Healey was a worthy and colourful support act, gooning about with his guitar and whetting our appetites for wit and riffs.
Fontaines DC took the stage to some frenetic bodhran driven music, moving into a 4-1 formation with the drummer against a backdrop of caged lightbulbs hanging in columns. One minute the staging was dystopian steampunk, the next it was distress messages being flashed using the living room lights of suburban semis.
Charismatic front man Grian Chatten joined the three guitarists across the front of the stage, immediately fully immersed in the songs and delivering them with lurching awkward punky sincerity. The songs come at you like rushour traffic, urgent punky drums and bass building into edifices of pounding guitarwork that swamped you with sound.
For a man of my age remembering the likes of The Strokes, The Fall, The Pogues, The Smiths and The Wedding Present as separate individual bands with their own bodies of work, it is kind of breathtaking to watch Fontaines DC assimilate what they did so well and produce their own new thing from it.
It’s a bit like watching your kids raid the fridge and then wanting a bite of the weird but delicious snack they have created.
This is a very complete band, very serious about what they do and very capable of doing it. Most of the night the pace was fast and hot, some mosh was going on at the front, staff were shining torches on crowd surfers and shoulder sitters and telling them to desist, the crowd were chorusing ‘Fontaines DC’ like a football chant. But there were also a couple of ballads in the mix, offering a melodic breather and underlining the versatility of this lyrically and musically articulate group.
My One True Love is nudging me and telling me that the Boys In The Better Land was the song of the night (the intro to which has more than a whiff of Van Morrison’s Gloria about it) but I love the bittersweet wit of A Hero’s Death: life ain’t always empty.
On this evidence you couldn’t have a better reminder of why it is worth going out than Fontaines DC.